Thursday, March 21, 2024

Battersea Park

Battersea Park from Lift 109
Looking down on Battersea Park, from Lift 109.

One of London's parks, that I have started to visit a lot more, is Battersea Park in Wandsworth. 

This sprawling park is full of walking routes, a bandstand, boating lake, cafes, a children's playground, children's zoo, cricket pitches, a gallery, an Old English Garden, Sub-Tropical Gardens and so much more, so there is something for everyone.

With the new Battersea Power Station tube station, Queenstown and Battersea Park railway stations all within easy walking distance, exploring this expansive park has never been easier.

Battersea Park Sub-Tropical Gardens
Sub-Tropical Gardens.

Even during the winter months, when the trees are bare and the Rosary Gardens are pruned. the Sub-Tropical Gardens are still colourful enough to brighten my day. 

The paths that meander around the park and boating lake are usually under tree cover, unless it is one of the paths that crosses the large green spaces, for which little cover is available.

During the warmer months the whole park becomes an oasis that becomes home to myriad animal species, with non-native birds roosting in the trees.

This tranquil space is used by many joggers, dog walkers, fitness fanatics and the like, all trying to find their own little piece of the park, while cyclists stick to their routes while parents dawdle along the paths, while their children explore the wide open spaces and the bushes along the paths.

Battersea Park Sub-Tropical Gardens
Flowers in the Sub-Tropical gardens.

Plus, sitting by the Peace Pagoda I can take in the views along the River Thames towards Fulham, Chelsea and Westminster. It is fast becoming my favourite park to visit, as it is unlike, in my opinion, any of the other parks within London.
Brief History

The land that now makes up was originally known as Battersea Fields, made up of fertile marshes, criss-crossed by streams and ditches, where carrots, melon, asparagus and lavender were grown. 

At the edge of the River Thames were wharves and industrial works, including: chemical works, iron works, a lime kiln and a pottery, among others.

The Battersea Park Act 1846 and £200,000 was put aside to purchase 320 acres of the land. Of this 198 acres became Battersea Park.

Sir James Pennethorne laid out his vision for the park between 1846 -1864, although when the park opened, in 1858, it wasn't exactly to his vision.

Battersea Park Rosery Gardens
Rosary Gardens.

Part of the success of Battersea Park relied on the opening of Chelsea Bridge, which Queen Victoria opened in 1858. In her honour the road to the east was named Victoria Road, which linked to Queens Road via Victoria Circus and Prince of Wales Road. Victoria Circus became Queen's Circus, while Victoria Road and Queens Road became Queenstown Road. Prince of Wales Road became Prince of Wales Drive.

Battersea Park Peace Pagoda
Peace Pagoda.

In 1863, John Gibson, the park's first superintendent, created the Sub-Tropical Gardens, which were the first of their time in the country. Many of the plants were kept in pots, so that they could be moved inside the park's greenhouses, during the winter months.

The Sub-Tropical Gardens remained until World War II, when much of the park was turned into allotments, with anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons filling more space.

In 2004, with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund, Wandsworth Council restored the Sub-Tropical Gardens to the original plans.

In 1864 Battersea Park played host to the first exhibition football match, with the teams being made up of well known footballers of the day.

The amateur football team, Wanderers FC, made Battersea Park their home from the 1860s, who won the first Football Association Cup in 1872.

In 1889 the park came under the management of the London County Council.

A monkey in the zoo

In 1951 the northern end of Battersea Park was transformed into 'Pleasure Gardens' as part of the Festival of Britain festivities.

A rollercoaster was also installed which ran until 1970, when a fire damaged its wooden construction. Then, in 1972, 5 children died and 13 more were injured, in what would become known as the Battersea Park funfair disaster.

The land where the funfair once stood is now the Battersea events area, currently known as Battersea Evolution.

Looking west along the River Thames
Looking towards Fulham.

In 1985, The Peace Pagoda, was completed and the workers, who had constructed it, lived in huts in what is now the Battersea Park Children's Zoo. 

The Pump House Gallery, located in the centre of the park, is housed in a four-storey Grade II listed Victorian tower. 

Looking east along the River Thames
Looking towards Westminster.

Today, Battersea Park is home to over 4,000 trees, historic and contemporary gardens, various sculptures, by the likes of Henry Moore, and memorials.

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